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DARRYL H. v. COLER

April 25, 1984

DARRYL H., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GREGORY COLER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bua, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM ORDER

The matter before the Court is a suit brought by plaintiffs, the H. family, against individual members of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and others. The H. family claims that defendants violated their constitutional rights during an investigation of a report of alleged child abuse in their home. Jurisdiction is vested in this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 1343. Certain defendants move for summary judgment and plaintiffs move for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability, but request a trial on the issue of damages.*fn1 Plaintiffs also request that this Court require defendants to divulge the name of the mandated reporter who initiated the H. family investigation. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies both of plaintiffs' motions and grants defendants' motion for summary judgment.

I. FACTS

The plaintiffs in this case, the H. family, comprise a family unit of a stepfather, mother and two children, ages six and seven. On October 26, 1982, Paula Davis, a caseworker for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services ("DCFS"), went to the H. family's home to investigate a complaint of suspected child abuse*fn2 received by DCFS from a mandated reporter.*fn3 Davis, finding the two adults at home when she arrived for her investigation, explained the purpose of her visit and was allowed into the home in order to discuss the allegations.*fn4 Davis interviewed the mother and stepfather at home and indicated that an interview with the children would be necessary.

The two adult plaintiffs then accompanied Davis to the children's school. At school, the H. children were called into a room near the principal's office. After asking their stepfather, but not their mother, to leave the room, Davis questioned the children about facts pertinent to the allegations. The children indicated that they were only spanked infrequently by their mother, bathed daily and had adequate food. At this point, Davis proceeded to conduct a physical examination of the two children with the help of the mother, but over the mother's objection.*fn5

Davis concluded that the report of abuse concerning the H. children was unfounded. Accordingly, Davis, pursuant to DCFS policy, notified the H. family of the finding and deleted all information identifying the family from the State Central Register.

The H. family now brings suit in this Court alleging deprivation of their constitutional rights under the fourth, fifth, ninth and fourteenth amendments.*fn6 Plaintiffs claim that defendants, by searching their home and their children, violated plaintiffs' right to be free from unwarranted state intrusion into their family privacy and their right to be free from an unreasonable or warrantless search of their home and children. To this end they have named as defendants: the Director of DCFS, Gregory Coler; the Administrator, Child Protective Services of DCFS, William Ryan; the caseworker of DCFS, Pamela Davis; the Cook County Administrator, Child Protective Services Unit, James Winter; and the Supervisor of the Chicago Training Center of DCFS, Bruce Woll; in their official and unofficial capacities (hereafter collectively referred to as "the State defendants"). Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief against the State defendants which would prohibit future enforcement of DCFS' policy of searching homes and children in suspected child abuse cases without warrants. Plaintiffs also seek actual and punitive damages for the emotional harm they have suffered. Finally, the H. family alleges that DCFS violated their right to family privacy by not investigating the complaint of the mandated reporter to determine if it was made in good faith.*fn7

II. OVERVIEW OF DCFS PROCEDURE

The Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, Ill.Rev.Stat., Ch. 23, Sec. 2051, et seq. (1975), (hereinafter "the Act") mandates that DCFS shall, upon receiving reports of abuse, "protect the best interest of the child, offer protective services in order to prevent any further harm to the child and to other children in the family, stabilize the home environment and preserve family life wherever possible." Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 23, § 2052. The Act authorizes DCFS to conduct child protective investigations to accomplish these goals. DCFS, under the direction of Gregory L. Coler, developed the Child Abuse and Neglect Investigations Decisions Handbook in July of 1982 (hereinafter "Decisions Handbook") which delineates guidelines for all of the steps involved in investigating a report of abuse or neglect.

Initially, DCFS may receive an allegation of abuse or neglect over its 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year toll-free reporting hotline. A call must meet several criteria, however, before it is considered to constitute a report of abuse or neglect:

1. The child must be less than 18 years of age;

  2. The child must either have been harmed, or be
  in danger of harm or of a substantial risk of
  harm;
  3. A specific incident or circumstances which
  suggests the harm was caused by child abuse or
  neglect has been identified;
  4. A parent or caretaker must be the alleged
  perpetrator of neglect;
  5. A parent or other caretaker, an adult family
  member, an adult individual residing in the same
  home as the child, or the parent's paramour must
  be the alleged perpetrator of abuse.

DCFS Procedures Part 302.5(b) at pp. 10-11.

The Act denominates several groups of professionals as mandated reporters. Ill. Rev.Stat. ch. 23, § 2054. Mandated reporters include social service, school, law enforcement and medical personnel. They are required to immediately report to DCFS any child they have reasonable cause to believe is an abused or neglected child. Any person who "knowingly transmits a false report" to the hotline may be criminally charged with disorderly conduct. Ill. Rev.Stat., ch. 23, § 2054.

An investigative visit with an alleged child abuse victim and the family must begin within 24 hours of the report or, in the case of an emergency, the investigation must begin immediately. DCFS Procedures §§ 302.5(g)(1) and 302.5(g)(2), pp. 23-24. The caseworker is instructed to introduce him or herself to the caretaker*fn8 as a representative of DCFS, explain the purpose of the visit, and inform the caretaker of the receipt of a neglect or abuse report. Decisions Handbook, pp. 44-45. The procedure to be followed in the event that the caseworker is denied access to the child is as follows:


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